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May 20, 2020 1:45 PM, EDT

Preliminary Work to Begin on 40 Highway Projects in Kansas

KansasBridge work near Osawatomie, Kan. The approved projects include some work on bridges. (Orlin Wagner — Associated Press)

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Preliminary engineering work will commence on 40 highway modernization and expansion projects in Kansas, Gov. Laura Kelly and Secretary of Transportation Julie Lorenz recently announced.

The projects, announced May 14, are the first to move forward under the Eisenhower Transportation Legacy Program, known as IKE. Created in March, IKE is a 10-year program under which highway modernization and expansion projects will be selected on a rolling basis every two years as a way to address pressing needs and adjust to fluctuating revenues. (President Dwight Eisenhower, the program’s namesake, was raised in Abilene, Kan.)

“These transportation investments come at a critical time for our state’s economy,” Kelly said. “A robust development pipeline will help jump-start our economic recovery by creating jobs and allowing the state to take advantage of potential federal stimulus dollars. I’m thankful to the Legislature for passing IKE, a critical employment tool that will help put more Kansans back to work.”

The development pipeline refers to all the phases of work prior to construction, such as design, right-of-way acquisitions and moving utilities. While KDOT is not committing to constructing the projects, this action will allow necessary advance work to begin.

One of the selected projects would involve expanding U.S. Route 69 to alleviate congestion in Johnson County, which lies immediately south of Kansas City. Another project would replace a bridge carrying Interstate 70 in Shawnee County and expanding the surrounding roadway to improve safety. Several projects would involve adding passing lanes to certain corridors.

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“A modern transportation system moves people, freight and technology, and these 40 projects will allow us to do all those things better in every region of the state,” Lorenz said. “We’ve selected smaller projects, which can advance to construction quickly, and larger projects that will employ many people in all phases of development or construction.”

More than 2,000 constituents participated in local meetings to shape the IKE program. Besides the rolling nature of the program, key features include investments in broadband and new technologies and a continued commitment to multimodal transportation.

Julie Lorenz

Lorenz

According to a notice from KDOT, the only projects that previously were in the agency’s development pipeline were the remaining Transportation Works for Kansas (T-WORKS) projects. T-WORKS was a 10-year transportation program that ended this year.

“I’ve directed KDOT to explore all options for accelerating project delivery for these 40 projects and for the delayed T-WORKS projects, which we remain committed to constructing,” Kelly said. “Transportation investments provide short-term and long-term economic benefits to communities, and we’re committed to capturing as many of those opportunities as we can.”

Kelly, who was elected governor in 2018, has authorized $216 million in sales tax revenue to remain in the state highway fund in fiscal 2020. This fund has enabled KDOT to lead multiple programs to bolster infrastructure projects.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly

Kelly

The agency’s Cost Share Program, which is meant to provide funding for transportation projects, has been popular among local government agencies. The program provides funding to local entities for transportation projects that aim to improve safety, reduce congestion, support economic growth and improve mobility.

Through the highway fund, KDOT was able to reinstate the Local Bridge Improvement Program in August. The initiative, which is meant to help replace and rehabilitate structurally deficient bridges, had been dropped because of budget cuts in recent years.

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